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Historic Palm Springs Hotels

casa cody

Experience one of the many historic Palm Springs hotels on your next stay.

By Randy Garner

Palm Springs hotels are iconic and steeped in history. From the luxurious resorts to the chic boutique hotels, each one has a unique story to tell that is woven into the fabric of this desert oasis.

In the early 1900s, Palm Springs was just a small village tucked away in the Southern California Desert. It was known for its hot springs and warm dry climate, which were believed to have healing properties.

Palm Springs Hotels – 1920’s

During the 1920s, Hollywood discovered Palm Springs as a convenient weekend getaway destination. The town became a hotspot for celebrities looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Soon, hotels started cropping up to cater to the influx of movie stars and wealthy tourists.

Korakia Pensione

Built in 1924, The Moroccan villa was the former hideaway of Scottish painter Gordon Coutts. The villa served as the venue for Coutts to re-create his earlier life in Tangier by employing a wide variety of architectural features that promoted a Moroccan décor.  Coutts hung his paintings in the library, where he regaled his guests with tales of adventure.

Coutts Palm Springs 1924 Korakia Pensione

Korakia quickly became a gathering place for musicians, visiting artists and celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino and Errol Flynn. It is rumored that even Winston Churchill has painted in the villa’s Artist Studio.

korakia pensione

The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn and Bishop House

The Willows consists of two stunning mansions, the Mead and Bishop House.

The Mead house was constructed in 1925 as the winter home of businessman and philanthropist William Mead and designed by architect William Dodd with Dodd & Richards. He was considered one of Southern California’s most prominent architects. The land they chose was of particular interest because the Tahquitz creek ran right through it. Then name came from the fact there were many willow trees on the property. Although Mead isn’t well known today, he was a prominent force in the community at the time. Much of his fortune came from real estate and a fire insurance business. He later founded the Central State Bank.

The same year Dodd & Richards designed a strikingly similar home for Roland Bishop (468 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way), now known as the Bishop House. Bishop was a prominent Los Angeles businessman who headed Bishop & Co., Southern California’s largest confectioner and purveyor of baked goods, which was acquired by the National Biscuit Co. in 1930, now known as Nabisco.

The Mead house was later purchased by Samuel Untermyer, who was a rather famous lawyer from New York and well known for being the first lawyer in the U.S. to receive a fee of $1 million dollars. He became one of the wealthiest lawyers in the world. His wife had passed away and his health was beginning to fail, so he decided to move to a dry climate to rejuvenate.

willows

Einstein Room

One of the most iconic and important figures in the history of the Mead house was a visit from a good friend of Samuel Untermyer, Dr. Albert Einstein. He would visit with his wife Elsa. You can stay in the same room Einstein enjoyed.

Willows-Einstein room

Marion Davies Room

In the mid-1950’s, the Willows was taken over by a famous tenant – Marion Davies. While many know Davies as a movie star and long time mistress of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, few realize she was also a brilliant businesswoman and real estate speculator. In 1955, she was part of consortium of investors who bought the fabled Desert Inn. With its location directly adjacent to the hotel, the Willows made a perfect headquarters for Davies and a charming venue for entertaining such famous friends as Mary Pickford and her husband Buddy Rogers.

Marion Davies Room Willows

It remains an important part of the Palm Springs hotels historic collection.

Palm Springs Hotels – 1930’s

Colony Palms Hotel and Bungalows

Al and his brother Lou Wertheimer were the former operator of the Colony Club in Detroit. It seemed the owner of the club, Johnny Ryan, was eliminated by order of the notorious Purple Gang. The club ground to a halt, so the Werthemier’s began looking elsewhere.

Al built the Colonial House in 1936 (572 N. Indian Canyon Drive) and it allegedly featured an underground gambling den accessed only by a secret passage. It was planned to occupy an entire block. The first unit of the Spanish Colonial Revival style was completed along Indian Canyon with two large wings to the rear enclosing a large landscaped patio and pool. The lower floor contained seven apartments and the second floor one large apartment occupied by his wife Thelma.

colony palm entry

It is now part of the Hermann luxury resorts brand. This upscale adults-only boutique hotel and its inviting palm tree-lined pool are set against the backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains. The perfect place to savor the ultimate Palm Springs experience, The Colony Palms is a laid-back yet upbeat retreat that brings a dash of Hollywood glamour to the desert.

colony palms suite

Casa Cody

Herold and Harriet Cody came to Palm Springs in 1916 for Herold’s health. His health was getting worse so they rented out their Hollywood home and moved to Palm Springs for the dry desert air to cure his recurring bouts with pneumonia. Harold, a Los Angeles architect, is said to be the cousin of legendary Buffalo Bill Cody. One of his local projects was the remodel of Riverside’s Mission Inn. Harriet is said to be a direct descendant of Sir Thomas Moore and from one of the wealthiest families in Philadelphia.

Cody camped out on their newly acquired property until construction of their adobe house was completed. To make ends meet, she decided to start the first stable in Palm Springs. Harriet carried on the operations of the riding stables until 1928 and then dealt in real estate until she built Casa Cody in 1937 (175 South Cahuilla Road). She and her daughter Patricia operated the apartments until her death in 1954. Her daughter married Bill Rogers, a cousin of famous Will Rogers.

It is now called the Casa Cody Inn and is the oldest continuous operating hotel of Palm Springs hotels. It is designated as a Class I historic site.

Josh Cho Photography - Casa Cody
Credit: Josh Co

Palm Springs Hotels – 1940’s

Ingleside Estate

Another popular hotel from this era was the Ingleside Inn, now known as Ingleside Estate. It was originally built as a private residence in the 1920s, but was later converted into a hotel by Ruth Hardy in 1940. The 22-acre Ruth Hardy Park was named after her.

The inn became synonymous with Hollywood glamour. Charles Laughton, Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Gary Cooper, Salvador Dali, the elusive Howard Hughes, Lucille Ball, Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra, Debbie Reynolds, Xavier Cugat, Jackie Coogan, Kay Ballard, Yogi Berra, John Florsheim, and Jolie Gabor were all guests. The list goes on and on.

The 32 rooms had been remodeled and they kept the antique furnishings, which came with the home. Each guest room had a fireplace and French doors opening into the gardens. Trees were moved to give guests the finest view possible.

courtyard fountain ingleside inn

Del Marcos Hotel

The midcentury brought about a new era of Palm Springs hotels. The architecture became more streamlined and modern, reflecting the post-war optimism of the time. One of the most famous examples of this is the Del Marcos Hotel (255 W Baristo Road), which opened in 1947. Designed by architect William F. Cody, the hotel’s sleek lines and minimalistic design became an instant hit.

Del Marcos was receiving national recognition. William Cody was presented the award of the year for resort design by the American Institute of Architecture. More attention was brought to the hotel through an illustrated article in an issue of Architectural Forum, which had a large nationwide circulation.

del marcos resort

Palm Springs Hotels – 1950’s

Holiday House

Lloyd Whaley opens Holiday House in 1951. He had been visiting Palm Springs with his family since the early 40’s. The architect is Herbert Burns, who helped define Palm Springs modernist style. Among the facilities the hotel boasted was a heated swimming pool, putting greens, shuffle board games, outdoor cabana for day and night functions, bicycles for tenants and other recreational facilities. All this can still be enjoyed today.

holiday-house-history

holiday house

The Three Fifty Hotel

The Three Fifty Hotel is a 10 room boutique hotel located in the heart of downtown Palm Springs.  Originally built in 1950, this Mid-Century Modern gem was designed by famed architect  Herbert W. Burns.  The hotel was fully renovated in 2017 by interior designer, Laura Slipak. The hotel kept It’s Mid-Century roots and is updated with a chic minimalist flair. With only 10 guest rooms , this quiet boutique hotel is the perfect Palm Springs getaway.

The Three Fifty Pool

L’Horizon Palm Springs

The hotel was originally built in 1952 as a private residence for television producer Jack Wrather and his wife, actress Bonita Granville. The property was designed by legendary architect William Cody, who is known for his contributions to the midcentury modern style.

L'Horizon Historic Drawing
Courtesy of Wrather Papers. Department of Archives and Special Collection, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.

When Wrather and Granville decided to sell the property in the early 1960s, it was purchased by Hollywood producer Joshua Logan. Logan had the property converted into a hotel and added a number of luxurious amenities, including a pool and a tennis court.

Today, L’Horizon is a stunning hotel that offers unparalleled luxury and sophistication. Its sleek and stylish design pays homage to the midcentury modern era, with clean lines, simple shapes, and lots of natural light. The bungalows each have their own private patio and outdoor shower. There’s also a full-service spa, a restaurant serving farm-to-table cuisine, and a beautifully landscaped pool area.

l'Horizon pool

Recently added are the Hermann Bungalows.

Hermann Bungalows

Margaritaville Palm Springs

The Riviera Palm Springs opened in 1959 (now Margaritaville) and quickly became known as one of the most luxurious hotels in the area. It opened with 250 rooms and the largest swimming pool on the West Cost. It now boasts 398 rooms.

The film “Palm Springs Weekend” was filmed there that same year starring Troy Donahue. Connie Stevens is shown having lunch poolside with actor Robert Conrad. Desi Arnez performed there regularly at the time with his orchestra. Elvis and Sonny and Cher also performed there. Trini Lopez, a longtime Palm Springs resident, performed hits like “Lemon Tree” and “If I Had A Hammer” in 1968.

Margaritaville

Palm Springs Hotels – 1960’s

The Parker Palm Springs

The property got its start in 1961 as California’s very first Holiday Inn. Owner Milt Hicks’ Holiday Inn was the 200th Holiday Inn built to date.

Soon after it opened it was purchased by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. Autry’s intention for the property was to house his newly-acquired baseball team, the California Angels, during spring training.

In 1994, Autry sold the property to Rose Narva, who partnered with fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy to transform the hotel into a French inspired establishment named the Givenchy Hotel & Spa. Even following the sale of the property, Autry and his wife remained living in a two bedroom, two bath private home on the property, now known as the Gene Autry residence and available at The Parker.

Gene Autry hotel-palm-springs. Now the Parker

Jack Parker purchased the property and hired designer Jonathan Adler to lead a $27-million-dollar renovation and in 2004 the hotel reopened as the Parker Palm Springs. The 13-acre property was re-imagined in the style that Adler likes to call “hippie chic,” with an eclectic mix of vintage treasures decorating the guest rooms and common spaces.

Overhead shot of Silicone Valley pool and grounds at the Parker Hotel

No matter what your preferred style of accommodation, there’s no denying that Palm Springs hotels are a key part of the town’s incredible history. From the early hot springs resorts to the midcentury modern marvels, these hotels have played a major role in shaping Palm Springs’ identity.

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Palm Springs Confidential: A Hollywood Pedigree

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